Tuesday, July 24, 2012

On Sadness + Summer Buttermilk Cake

I had a glimpse of what it feels like to be depressed and it is scary. On Saturday morning I woke up dazed and just out of sorts for unknown reasons. The night before, we had some friends over for a dinner party and had some good food, great conversations, and a lovely time. Because we stayed up late, I thought maybe I was just tired… but the feeling dragged on the entire day, even after I made a good breakfast and cleaned up the kitchen. There was no strength in my body to walk on the treadmill with a book (that’s my new workout these days). At 1:00 in the afternoon, I crawled back into bed and slept for a good two hours. When I woke up, I was still sad. What the heck?

Maybe putting on a pretty dress and going to a nearby town for some liquor tasting, perusing the art walk downtown, and getting some sun would help? No, it didn’t help. When we got home, I was still feeling melancholic, listless, and hopeless.

DFJ tried so hard to cheer me up. We had dinner, watched Rain Man, had some dessert, and the sadness momentarily disappeared. But as soon as the entertainment was over, that darkness crept up again…

We talked about possible reasons for my sadness but couldn’t come up with anything. So then we started talking about reasons why I should NOT be sad. There were a lot of reasons:
1. DFJ and I have each other.
2. I have a wonderful family. They may be a thousand miles away, but I have them.
3. Everywhere I go, I have always been blessed with good people who support me.
4. I have great friends.
5. I have a very fulfilling job.
6. I eat well.
7. I am alive. Yes, I am alive and healthy.
8. …and so many more…

Being alive is reason enough to be happy. Sometimes, because of my obsessions and worries about the things that go on in my everyday life, I forget to stop and take a breath. The haste and stress cause me to lose ground and cease to enjoy the moment.

Today, I found out (through Facebook) that two of my former coworkers back home in the Philippines, one of which was a good friend, passed away. They were both still so young and they died because of cancer. It is so heartbreaking. There was not a chance to say goodbye… not even through the internet. How did I get so out of touch? Why is it hard to find time to call people dear to me or to send messages?

I can’t beat myself up though, right? Looking on the bright side, it is never too late to start anew and rekindle those connections. My friend Sally once told me some words of wisdom that I will always live by. When I first moved here and felt so heartsick because I am so far away from my family, she lovingly told me that leaving a place and starting anew somewhere doesn’t mean you lose what you have. Everywhere you go, you will meet new friends and your circle will keep getting wider.

I hope my friends all over the world know that even though I am far away and grew somewhat older (and hopefully wiser), I am still the same person they once knew and I will forever be grateful for the imprint they have left in my life. Stories, laughters, tears, and foods shared may have become rusty memories, but they are in here, in my heart.      

Let us all give ourselves the pleasure of taking time to pause, remember, reflect, give thanks, and turn our mundane tasks into amusement. Breathe… Take a walk… Do some handstands… Call a loved one and let them know you’re thinking of them… Say thank you... Invite friends over for dinner…

Bake this cake.

This cake is a slice of summer… smiling, full of life, demanding nothing from you but to be eaten and enjoyed. Fall in love with the strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and red currants thrown together in a spongy and lemony buttermilk cake. The sweetness of the cake is a lovely contrast to the tartness of the berries and the light texture beguiles the rich flavors.

Summer Buttermilk Cake (Makes 2 round cakes)
Adapted from bon app├ętit, Blackberry Buttermilk Cake (July 2011)

a generous pat of butter to grease the pans
2 tbsp cake flour (to dust the inside of pans)

1 cup fresh red currants, (washed, dried and removed from stems)
½ cup fresh strawberries, sliced                                                        
½ cup fresh raspberries
1/3 cup blueberries
2 tbsp sugar

2 1/3 cups cake flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
½ tsp baking soda

1 cup sugar
zest of one large lemon
1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
2 extra-large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk (well-shaken)

2 tbsp powdered sugar (to dust the top of cake)

Generously grease two, 9 inch round cake pans with a pat of butter. Coat both pans with 1 tablespoon of cake flour each. Spread the flour by tapping and tilting the pan in all sides. Greasing the pans with butter and dusting them with flour will help prevent the cake and the fruit from sticking on the pan.

In a large bowl, gently mix all the fruit with a rubber spatula, taking care not to smash them. Spread half of the fruit mix on the bottom of each pan and sprinkle with a tablespoon of sugar each. Set aside.

In a clean large bowl, whisk together the cake flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Make sure that everything is sifted very well.

Pause for a second to set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.

Pour the sugar in a large bowl and gently massage the lemon zest in the sugar using your fingertips. Add the room temperature butter into the bowl and using a hand held mixer set on low, beat until the mixture is creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating it into the mixture on low. Pour in the vanilla and continue to mix on low until everything is well incorporated.

Alternate adding the flour mixture and the buttermilk into the batter, starting and ending with the flour. Beat the mixture on low until just incorporated. Scrape the sides and bottom of the pan to make sure that there are no dry ingredients left.

Carefully place big blobs of the batter evenly over the fruit mixture between both pans. Spread the batter gently and smooth the top using a flat, rubber spatula.

Place both pans in the oven and bake for an hour. The cake is done when it turns a gorgeous golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Carefully move the pans on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Scrape the outer edges of the cake away from the pan using a thin, plastic spatula. Place the wire rack on top of the pan and carefully flip the cake pan and remove it so the bottom side of the cake is up. Do the same for the other cake. Dust the tops with a tablespoon of powdered sugar each. Let cool completely then carefully slide on a plate.

Serve plain, with some vanilla whipped cream, or vanilla ice cream on the side.

Bake this cake, savor it, and share it!
Allow this summer delight to make your heart glad and someone else’s too.


  1. This is such a beautiful post! Sorry to hear about your coworker in the Philippines. If you haven't watched this, it's a very great short video when you feel like you can't smile
    This cake looks delicious, so many fruit! I love it!

  2. Sorry to hear about your friend. Yes, life is short and one has to live each day as a blessing.
    The cake looks wonderful!

  3. I think we all have some of those days...but they do help us appreciate the days in which we are in good spirits! I'm so sorry to hear about your friends. So sad. :( This cake is gorgeous though! simple and full of the good things in life.

  4. I hope today is a better day!! Thanks for reminding us all to stop and take a break to reconnect with friends. Speaking of that... you should come visit us in Seattle sometime soon!

    1. Hey Emily! I would love to... that's a must do before the end of summer. :)

  5. Cathleen, thanks for sharing that link. That guy is funny and has the most positive outlook in life!

    Asmita and Joanne, thanks for the words of comfort. :)


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